EDITORIAL - Teams of rivalry: Pennsylvania loses without Pitt-Penn State

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Not that anyone wants to distract the Legislature from trying to pass a budget, especially two months into the new fiscal year. But another recurring issue deserves attention in Harrisburg.

There's Army-Navy, UCLA-USC, Oklahoma-Nebraska and Michigan-Ohio State. Not to mention Georgia Tech-Georgia, Miami-Florida State, Clemson-South Carolina -- and, well, you get the picture.

Sports fans love to hate, and if it's all for the fun of a college football rivalry, then so much the better. But Pennsylvania hasn't had the thrill since 2000, when, for the record, the Pitt Panthers defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 12-0 at Three Rivers Stadium, ending one of the nation's biggest gridiron grudge matches.

The state's two premier football programs don't have time for each other now, what with Pitt's commitment to the Big East and Penn State's success in the Big 10. Then there are those non-conference confections that both teams work into the schedule, like Pitt taking on Youngstown State and Buffalo this fall, while Penn State hopes for the best against Akron and Eastern Illinois.

It's easy to see how the Panthers and Lions have no room in a demanding 12-game season for their former state foe. Uh-huh.

State Sen. John N. Wozniak doesn't buy it either, and he's renewed his call for the teams to resume the football rivalry that dates to 1893. The Cambria County Democrat didn't go so far as to say the Legislature should withhold state funding from the state-related schools until university leaders come to their senses, but plenty of Pennsylvanians would be happy to say it for him.

It's time to resurrect Pitt vs. Penn State, and the state should use whatever leverage the schools understand.

Because this isn't about sports. It isn't about beer and tailgating either. It's about keeping tourism dollars at home. Both the universities and the Legislature claim to be concerned about economic development. So why deny Pennsylvania the annual financial jolt that comes from rotating sellouts, the in-state travel and lodging along the way and even the home TV parties organized around an annual Pitt-Penn State game?

Pennsylvanians love their traditions, and after nine years without this one they suffer a tradition of lost opportunity. Imagine Army and Navy going their separate ways for the likes of Akron and Youngstown State. They, unlike the Pennsylvania schools, would never stoop so low.

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